Monday, October 13, 2008

Rookies to Watch

Owners will probably need to have a solid draft to compete, but making sure your watch list is loaded with the right players could give you an extra day to make major scoops off the waiver wire. Al Thornton, Sean Williams, Thaddeus Young, Rodney Stuckey, and Ramon Sessions weren’t picked in the top 10 in the draft last year, but they all made contributions to many fantasy teams. This year will likely be no different, so get your binoculars out, because here’s a list of guys to keep your eye on this season:

Jarryd Bayless: If you’re going to start with outside of the top ten, why not start with 11? Bayless got a major opening with the injury to Martell Webster’s foot. Bayless is going to have to play behind Steve Blake, but he has a much better ability to get to the hoop and is a better defender than the former Terp. Blake is certainly a better passer, but with Brandon Roy already on the court the Blazers don’t necessarily need another distributor. J.B. was also an 84-percent free-throw shooter last year, so should he get hacked in the lane he’ll likely lift your fantasy team’s average. He was also 41-percent from behind the college arc, and he has made two of his four attempts so far this preseason. Bayless is the only person on this list that should be drafted in standard leagues, but temper your expectations since he was a freshman when he came out, and he won’t be earning many dimes.

Brandon Rush: Yet another great college player that succumbed to injury a year prior, and that allowed him to slip all the way to 13th. Rush has great athleticism and enough experience to give him a chance to emerge in his rookie season. He’ll have to play behind Mike Dunleavy, but beyond Dunleavy there’s not much, so he has a solid chance to get 20 minutes each night. Mike Dunleavy is struggling with knee tendonitis and Rush should be able to spell him should he miss time. Another scenario would be if Troy Murphy missed time with his ailing Achilles. Should Murphy miss time Danny Granger could move from the three to the four and Rush has enough size to play the three. The Pacers don’t quite get enough respect in fantasy circles, but they led the Eastern Conference in scoring and TJ Ford will only accelerate their offense. If Rush can somehow get 30 minutes he will certainly he worth a roster spot.

Courtney Lee: Lee looked great last year in The Big Dance and slipped a lot further than he probably should have in the draft. The Magic have four sure-fire starters in Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, and Jameer Nelson but the shooting guard positions is up for grabs. It appears that Jonathan Clay Redick is the frontrunner for the starting gig over Keith Bogans and Lee. Lee did play all four years at Western Kentucky and could probably contribute a lot more on a cellar-dweller than on the contending Magic. Nevertheless, Lee did average almost two steals per game, scored 20.4 PPG, and he has range even though he missed his only shot from long distance in the preseason opener.

Chris Douglas-Roberts: CDR was just as important to the Memphis Tigers as Derrick Rose last year, but his draft status wouldn’t indicate that at all. Douglas-Roberts slipped all the way to 40 in the draft and the Nets had no choice but to take him given there recent trade. The Nets shipped Richard Jefferson to Milwaukee which left a huge opening at small forward. Bobby Simmons was acquired in return and should likely get the start for New Jersey. Simmons along with Vince Carter do have durability issues and should either go down CDR will be competing with only Trenton Hassell and Jarvis Hayes. CDR has an exceptional ability to get to the hole and knows what to do when he gets there. He shot above 54-percent the last two seasons at Memphis and scored 18.1 PPG. He’s eligible at PG and SG and can certainly help in the offensive categories.

Mario Chalmers: It'd be hard to argue that Chalmers' best years are ahead of him after hitting one of the most clutch shots ever in NCAA history. Chalmers slipped into the second-round and came into a very fortunate situation. Miami does have some competition at the point this year amongst Chalmers, Marcus Banks, Chris Quinn, and Shaun Livingston. Chalmers isn’t exactly the quintessential point guard for an NBA team. He only had a 1.4:1 assist: turnover ratio last year, and only averaged 3.3 dimes per contest. However, Dwyane Wade runs the offense and assists won’t be paramount for the Miami starting PG. Chalmers didn’t show great man-to-man defense in summer leagues, so he has his work cut out for him. However, he has a strong opportunity and could emerge much like Chris Quinn did last year. Definitely rock, chalk him up to your watch list.

Robin Lopez: The second Lopez, the one with the crazy hair, went to Phoenix with the first pick outside of the lottery. Lopez is a great defensive presence and might be right up new Head Coach Terry Porter’s alley. Lopez won’t have much competition behind Shaq for minutes, but The Diesel is as reliable as he used to be, no thanks to E-85 Ethanol. Robin Lopez exhibited his ability to block shots in the outdoor game by blocking seven shots in under nine minutes of playing time. On the other hand, he did miss all four of his free-throws, but in his defense free-throws aren’t free when you’re playing at an outdoor tennis facility. If you failed to draft blocks and Shaq is unavailable for Phoenix keep a close eye on Lopez.

Bill Walker: Walker was suppose to be a lottery pick two years ago, but those hopes were dashed by an ACL tear and he didn‘t get selected until pick 47 . Walker is extremely athletic, explosive, always seems to be around the ball, and has size at 6‘6“ and 235 pounds. Walker has quickly become a crowd favorite in Boston, and he should be able to make the team. It is highly unlikely that Walker has much value until the end of the year, but if he can get double-digit minutes Walker might be able to get some serious playing time once the Celtics clinch their playoff spot, so he will probably be all on your watch list rather than your roster all year.

So what about the top 10 picks? Well here’s how I have them based on overall fantasy value:

1. Michael Beasley
2. OJ Mayo
3. Kevin Love
4. Russell Westbrook
5. Derrick Rose
6. DJ Augustin
7. Brook Lopez
8. Joe Alexander
9. Eric Gordon
10. Danilo Gallinari

Thanks for reading!

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